Bill to OK red-light cameras under consideration in New Jersey

| 9/25/2007

As state lawmakers put on a final push in New Jersey to approve bills before the regular session ends in about three months, a bill that could lead to red-light cameras popping up in the state possibly will draw consideration.

Existing state law prohibits use of camera radar by law enforcement officers or agencies.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph Coniglio, D-Paramus, the bill would remove the restriction for a period of 18 months to allow two municipalities to use photo enforcement at traffic signals that are deemed to have a high frequency of red-light runners.

The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners’ vehicles and license plates. Tickets are mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless who was driving at the time.

Supporters say the equipment encourages compliance with the law and saves lives by reducing collisions.

Coniglio said a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the cameras, combined with longer yellow lights, reduced red-light violations by 96 percent.

“The main purpose of this bill is to make our roads safer,” Coniglio told lawmakers.

Opponents question the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe. They also say the process denies alleged violators to confront their accusers.

“The motivation of every player in this deal is economics. Whether it’s the local jurisdiction or the manufacturer - that’s not reasonable justification for doing that,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Others question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more fender-bender accidents.

In fact, a study paid for by the U.S. Department of Transportation showed rear-end crashes actually increased in cities with red-light cameras, as motorists stopped abruptly at yellow lights to avoid tickets.

The bill – S2123 – is awaiting consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would move to the Assembly. All legislation must be approved by both chambers prior to the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for early January.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor